How light affects your sleep


Did you know that even the smallest beams of light in your bedroom can become focal points that grab your attention and distract you from sleep? The disappearance of light in the evening tells the brain that it is time to relax.

And few people realize that exposure to bright light during the day can improve sleep because sunlight, especially in the morning, helps regulate your circadian clock for the day, signaling your brain to wake up.

The greater the contrast between night and day, the better you sleep. Here’s how to achieve it.

Go out during the day

We know it’s hard to get out, especially since everyone is still going through a pandemic.

Maximizing sunlight in the morning helps optimize sleep at night. Plan to take a short walk or bike ride before you start your day – exercising during the day also optimizes sleep. Or maybe even take your next Zoom call sitting by a window.

Even if the weather isn’t good, go outside anyway: gray skies still provide about four to five times more light than indoor artificial light.

Adjust your evening lighting

Bright artificial light in the evening can disrupt sleep, so adjust your lighting. This means dimming overhead lights or turning them off altogether and relying on small accent or bedside table lamps instead.

It also means limiting sleep-delaying blue light, not just from lamps but also from the biggest culprits: laptops, tablets and phones.

Bulbs like Philips Hue and the SceneSwitch LED let you program the dimming and eliminate blue light at the same time.

If you read before bed, opt for print. Tablets, laptops, and TVs can make you think you’re less sleepy and take longer to fall asleep.

If you must use a screen, choose a phone over a tablet and set the screen to its night mode (Night Shift on iPhones, Night Mode on Android phones) to reduce blue light emission. For some people, blue light blocking glasses may be helpful.

Try to limit yourself to less than an hour of reading on your device in the evening. To avoid temptation after the bedtime alarm sounds, make your bedroom a gadget-free zone.

Block out the light in the bedroom

Enter your room with the lights off and close the door. Do you see any potentially distracting light sources? Watch out for smoke detectors, alarm clocks, or anything that emits the slightest amount of light. Make a plan to block them.

Blackout stickers, such as LightDims (Black Out Edition) or black electrical tape (use a hole punch to make neat circles) work wonders on indicator lights on set-top boxes, USB chargers, and TVs.

Blackout blinds or curtains block the light coming in from your window, and a door sweep can banish that glare from under the door. When shopping for blackout curtains and blinds, be sure to install them correctly so you don’t end up with a “halo” of light around the edges.

You can also fight all those distractions by wearing a sleep mask.

This article was edited by Alejandra Matos.


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